Be greeted by leprechauns in Melrose, the Little Ireland of Iowa

January 15, 2019

Monroe County's Melrose is affectionately known as Iowa's Little Ireland. The town website and a Facebook page both inform you that upon entering, you will be greeted by Leprechauns. I don't know that any jumped right out and shook my hand or offered me any of their pot of gold when I recently stopped through, but I have no doubt that they were there, somewhere, waving my way. ;)

 

Located west of Albia and a bit north of Lake Rathbun and Iconium, the town has a population of just over 100 as of the last census. On the day of my visit, my friend and I spent some time exploring the various sites. Many of my friend's family members, including her father, grew up near Melrose and she still has relatives in the area. 

I love that the town has gone all in with the Little Ireland theme. There is no doubt what the identity of this town is. Even the street signs are very Irish.

Near the city park is a couple of different monuments or tributes, including a nice veterans memorial. They honor Melrose area veterans who have been involved in America's wars or conflicts.

 

There is also a monument to the 1937 Melrose Shamrocks basketball team. They won the State Championship and their website has several more articles about this remarkable team. This chunk from the Wikipedia page about this team is quite amazing, "With an enrollment of only 66, the Melrose Shamrocks were the smallest school ever to win a single-class state basketball title in Iowa. The team finished their season 33–0, the first undefeated boys basketball team in Iowa history. In 2012, the Des Moines Register recognized the Shamrocks as one of the ten best State tournament teams in Iowa history.

Tolendol park also has a picnic shelter and more leprechaun decor. I like that the sign simply says, "Come as you are". 

There's an arboretum on the east side of town which includes a little green space and a picnic table.

There are two cemeteries near the town. One is more within the town and another is a bit south of town. 

My friend has relatives buried in the cemetery south of town and so we drove into that one a bit. It's up on a hill and quite beautiful.

 

As you might imagine, the vast majority of the residents are Irish Catholics and can probably trace a sizable part of their ancestry back to the homeland. The St. Patrick's Catholic Church is right on the main north/south road through town.

There's a small downtown area with a few different buildings, including Feehan's Pub. My friend and I stopped in there for a bit.

 

Some of the buildings in the downtown area are in various states of use and quality.

 

There is a nice community center. I am sure that has hosted some great wedding receptions in its day. 

I found both larger and smaller homes. This particular house was decked out in Irish decor. 

There were some larger homes as well.

On the west side of town was an agricultural supplier. 

I found the post office and also a garage where the emergency services vehicles are housed.

 

I'm not precisely sure where this "tourist information" sign is supposed to be pointing, but I think if you stop in Feehan's Pub when you are in town (and it's open), there would be someone in there who could ensure you see the sights.

I hear that Melrose puts on a fun St. Patrick's Day celebration so if you are looking for somewhere different to celebrate on that weekend this year, perhaps you could make your way to Iowa's Little Ireland for something a bit more authentic.

 

As always, I welcome your suggestion of places to visit and profile whether in Monroe County or any of the other 98 counties in Iowa. If you have a good idea or would like to host the Iowa Adventurer, please drop me a note through my website.

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